The exhibitions you must see this May
Explore the life and work of Stanley Kubrick and celebrate the pioneering women of the Arts and Crafts movement in our pick of exhibitions to see this month.
This month's must-see exhibitions are all about technologies old and new, from the evolution of writing and traditional craft to the wizardry of filmmaking and videogames – and even digital animals.
Most of our May delights are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass.
Stanley Kubrick fans rejoice: here's a whole exhibition dedicated to the iconic filmmaker’s life and work, with original props and costumes, set models and rare photographs. Many scenes from films such as Full Metal Jacket, Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey were filmed in the UK, where Kubrick lived for much of his life. This show explores his unique relationship with Britain, as well as his innovative techniques and fascination with design and architecture.
Gamers have always known it, but this is the first exhibition to explore how important video games are as a field of design. Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt examines how the internet and social media have opened up ever more groundbreaking design possibilities since the start of the century, and looks at the political elements and evolution of player communities. If your thumbs start twitching, there are plenty of opportunities for hands-on interaction.
It’s an everyday activity we often do without thinking, but writing has a fascinating 5,000-year history – from stone carving through to early manuscripts, all the way to modern emojis. This exhibition explores over 30 different writing systems and looks at how the skill has evolved through innovation and technology. Highlights include the 1,800-year-old homework of a Greek schoolchild, the first book ever printed in England, and the final diary entry of the explorer Scott of the Antarctic.
The Arts and Crafts Movement flourished in Britain during the first few decades of the 20th century. This exhibition brings to light the huge contribution made by professional craftswomen – textile artists, weavers, ceramicists and silversmiths – many of whom combined traditional techniques they learned while travelling with contemporary design. Over 100 pieces are on display, showcasing the artists’ innovative approach and their wider influence on the craft revival.
London is seen through the eyes of our animal neighbours in this epoch-spanning and immersive digital exhibition. Beginning at a time before the city even existed and travelling through to the present day, you’ll meet a vast cast of creatures who have all called London home – from elephants and lions to pigeons and fleas. The beasts themselves act as your guides, borrowing the voices of many well-known humans including Brian Blessed, Kate Moss and Nish Kumar.
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
- 6 April – 20 October 2019
- Free to all
Showcasing the work of three of America’s most significant 20th-century photographers, this exhibition focuses on the self-portraiture and representation of Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe. All three artists were known for their willingness to push the boundaries of their art form, and the show explores the connections between them. It includes Arbus’ A Box of Ten Photographs (1969-71), which is the only series she selected images for herself – offering an insight into how she wished to be seen as a photographer.
- IWM North, Manchester
- 17 May 2019 – 26 January 2020
- Free to all
The ongoing conflict in Yemen has resulted in what the UN is calling the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with around 80% of the population in need of urgent assistance. This is the first UK exhibition to investigate the causes of the war and how people, particularly children, are affected. Personal accounts, photography and items such as charity food vouchers, school books and medical equipment for treating cholera illustrate the harsh realities of living in the grip of conflict.